By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA) – The Philippine government said Thursday it is delaying the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels in order to seek input from public and government groups on issues raised during Norwegian-brokered negotiations.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the government pushed back the resumption of talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, citing President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to have more public consultations on the matter after he was briefed on developments in the backchannel talks.
“Our peace efforts, to succeed, should have good support from the general public. Hence, it is necessary that all efforts be exerted to inform and engage them in the same way as the government engages the rebels in addressing the root causes of conflict,” said Dureza.
Dureza said the government intends to organize public consultations similar to what it has been doing with the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.
Rebel leader Jose Maria Sison, who has been living in exile in the Netherlands since 1987, expressed disappointment and frustration over the government’s decision to postpone the resumption of the peace talks, which were scheduled to resume June 28 with a stand-down ceasefire between the military and rebels to be enforced a week before.
“Because the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) under Duterte is obviously not interested in serious peace negotiations, the revolutionary forces and the people have no choice but to single-mindedly wage [a] people’s war to achieve the national and social liberation of the Filipino people,” Sison said in a statement posted on the NDFP’s website.
“It is clear to the entire people that a broad united front of all anti-Duterte forces has arisen to effect the ouster of the current regime for its crimes of treason, mass murder, drug smuggling, corruption, intolerable tax burden, inflating prices of basic goods and services, rising rate of unemployment, depreciation of the peso, onerous loans and overpriced infrastructure projects and other aggravated conditions of exploitation and oppression in the country,” he added.
Sison slammed the government for reneging on written agreements signed by the representatives of the government and NDFP negotiating panels, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello and NDFP panel chairperson Fidel V. Agcaoili, during the backchannel talks in the Netherlands early this month which were witnessed by the Royal Norwegian special envoy Ambassador Idun Tevdt.
“I urge the two negotiating panels to release to the public and to the press the written and signed agreements of June 9 and 10 signed by the chairmen of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels and by the members of their respective special teams,” said Sison.
Backchannel discussions by representatives of the government and the communists on the resumption of peace talks were being held last November but fell through after Duterte terminated them following attacks by the rebels in which a number of government troops were killed.
In December, Duterte issued a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) terrorist organizations.
In February, however, he said he might consider the resumption of peace talks after consulting with his military officials.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies in the country which, according to the military, has claimed thousands of lives.